Reporting | Lee Ann Crosby
Managing Editor | Liz Frank
When Tulsans think about commuter trains, our minds must wander back in time. Trains in Tulsa are primarily utilized for freight today, but in the not-so-distant history, trains were an economical and convenient solution for travelers.
Many large cities began and continue to use passenger rail for these reasons, but this service wasn’t always limited to more populous areas. In fact from 1909 to 1955, Tulsa had multiple passenger railways, including a system linking Tulsa to Sand Springs.
Founded by Charles Page, The Sand Springs Railway transported Tulsans and Sandites along the eight-and-a-half-mile track, spawning many businesses along the train’s route, which included a stop in Greenwood across from the historic Dreamland Theater. Riders used the line for commuting and recreation, traveling to enjoy all the sights and activities the area had to offer at the time, including the Sand Springs Amusement Park and Sand Springs Zoo.
A landmark stop along the line was the Bruner Hill Station. Named after a Creek man, Billy Bruner, who sold the land to Page for the railway, the Station once had a meat market and grocery store for commuters as well as thriving neighborhoods surrounding it.
Unfortunately, as the popularity of rail travel decreased (along with the price of cars,) the railway became primarily utilized for freight, and in 1955 it discontinued passenger service. The addition of the Keystone expressway in 1969 drew traffic away from the region, and the closure of factories in the 1980s sealed the area’s fate.
Now known as Northwest Tulsa, the community nestled between downtown Tulsa and Sand Springs, is a far cry from the once prospering rail stop it was just a few decades ago. Left without a local grocery store, residents travel around ten miles to Sand Springs for groceries, and the trip is even longer if they choose to shop in Tulsa.
Many of the community’s residents do not have a car, or other means of transportation, and their only local food source is a Dollar General located at South Forty-ninth West Avenue. Residents complain that they often cannot purchase frozen food because after walking home in the summer heat the food will be melted. One resident thinks the zip code, most of which is in Osage County, lacks many resources, including sufficient parks and recreation for children, including a community center and more splash pads.
Just A Push Foundation, a Tulsa nonprofit, focuses on empowering at-risk children and adults by reaching out to the north and west neighborhoods in Tulsa to link individuals with pathways. An important part of the Foundation’s framework is meeting individuals where they are in life, because this type of interaction is vital for the community. Getting to the root of the problem is key for relevant change.
Just A Push Foundation’s 74127 Abandoned Zip Code program requested that the 74127 community fill out questionnaires identifying what they would do if they were the mayor of Tulsa. And in response to their questionnaires, community leaders and organizations were able to use the community’s input to initiate positive transformations in Northwest Tulsa.